Online reviews and why they matter

 Sam Jenkins
Business Management Marketing SaaS Startup Tutoring

The provision of high quality products and services is what business is all about and is key to any company’s success. Whilst this should come as no surprise, what might be more surprising is how fundamental an impact online reviews can have on your prospect consumers’ purchasing decisions. Research indicates that over 67% of buyers agree that reading online reviews impacts their decision making. Understanding the thought process that an individual undertakes when looking for a product is key to getting to grips with how to market your company effectively; to that end, online reviews can play a significant part.

A sneak peak at TutorCruncher’s online marketing plan

Why are reviews worth reading?

Engaging with a product at face value might be enough to convince some people that they are ready to buy. However, research suggests that we often need a little more persuading from a trustworthy source. How much more likely are you to dine at a specific restaurant if a friend of yours told you about the great time they had there recently? Equally, how much less likely are you to dine at the same restaurant had you heard that a friend had a miserable experience?

Even the most sociable of socialites is unlikely to know somebody to have tried each and every product they are interested in. And so, we turn to reviews. Many industries operate with critics who are, essentially, super-reviewers. New literature, film, fashion, food, and much more will have highly publicised reviews from established critics which can have a huge bearing on the way the product is perceived. Ultimately, this is a process of client referral. Someone who has consumed your product tells others about their experience, which can lead to a positive buzz, damage your reputation, or achieve something in-between.

Word of mouth advertising is powerful and is one of the most cost-effective ways to market your company. The kind of success that companies such as Superdry and Starbucks have achieved, focussing on organic marketing methods, is testament to that fact. If traditional advertising is how you push your message to your end users, reviews are how you pull consumers to your product through word of mouth. You want people to review your product so that you, as a company, and other potential consumers can engage with your audience.

Organic growth thrives of this engagement. Reviews can help shape your own processes and the way your product works in addition to informing other consumer’s decisions. This applies to both positive and negative (or shall we say *constructive) *reviews. Reviews that criticise your product are a platform by which other users will engage with how your company handles criticism. The best way to make a bad review worse is to handle it poorly!

How to handle online feedback. Note: fish-based puns will not work for all negative feedback.

You can still get a lot out of a negative review if a consumer reading it thinks; ‘well that doesn’t apply to me’. Additionally, a small number of top quality reviews, essentially 5★, is likely to be less persuasive than a large number of good reviews (with an aggregate score of somewhere between 4★ and 5★). There is an inbuilt cynicism when looking at something that only has positive reviews, meaning a handful of negative ones can make them stand out better. The internet takes this straightforward human process and scales up its audience dramatically.

Taking word of mouth online

The delocalisation of products and services has radically changed the way the world does business. Word of mouth marketing has also fundamentally evolved in an online world, so capitalising on the opportunities this creates is key. The notion of push and pull marketing ought to be what drives a company’s online presence. We have written before about good SEO and the importance of having great content to sell your product via your website. Online reviews can appear front and center and make for fantastic, original content for your company’s web presence.

Getting these reviews has never been easier. Amazon, for example, has been a leader in terms of integrating reviews into its services. There are a great number of dedicated reviewing platforms that apply to a whole range of industries. Take Capterra, a company which specialises in business software. They offer a range of categories to browse a specific marketplace of products and present the most popular selections from its community of users and reviewers. You can see TutorCruncher standing tall at the top of their Tutoring Software category #humblebrag.

#humblebrag

As with any online marketing and SEO discussion, making the most of Google is imperative. Google makes it very straightforward to leave reviews when searching for a specific product/company, with them later appearing front and center in other people’s searches. This information also shows up on Google Maps. As well as this, Google last year added a ‘Reviews from the web’ functionality to complement the reviews made directly from Google. Taking data from other reviewing sites serves to drive home just how essential it is to ensure your engagement with this resource of consumer interaction.

Regular reviewing

As much as the quality of reviews is important, the quantity of online review content may be of greater importance. A user does not necessarily need to trawl through every single review, simply seeing the number of reviews and an average score is enough to have a profound impact on purchasing decisions. Raw numbers make a difference, so making it as easy as possible for your users to review to help boost those numbers is your company’s prerogative. A steady increase in the number of reviews gives your online presence momentum and contributes to your SEO as, of course, playing the long game is important. Furthermore, as reviews are often indexed in reverse chronological order, having recent content for interested consumers to browse contributes to the reviews’ impact.

Happy clients are your most cost-effective marketing tool, so encouraging their feedback and incorporating this into your online presence is great content and great for SEO. You cannot have too many reviews, don’t be nervous about getting negative ones as well!

Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5